Cloud Concerns

For educational organizations, some key elements to a sensitive issue.

GUEST COLUMN| by Michael Fimin

CREDIT Netwrix.pngBecause educational entities deal with both education records and sensitive financial data related to loans and tuition fees, a secure and reliable networking infrastructure is a must-have. However, shortage of IT personnel and limited IT budgets make it very difficult for educational entities to keep their IT infrastructures under control, operate efficiently, and properly evaluate and efficiently manage security risks. Plus, the educational sector is often less regulated than other industries (such as finance and banking), which may result in insufficient focus on security and compliance issues.

The survey results revealed that cloud computing provides educational entities with a powerful instrument to foster innovation for educational purposes, significantly reduce the burden on internal IT resources and improve risk management.

In 2016, Netwrix conducted its Cloud Security Report, which encouraged more than 600 IT professionals from multiple industries, including the educational sector, to share their biggest cloud concerns and experience with data security. Here are some insights shared by educational organizations:

Benefits of cloud

The survey results revealed that cloud computing provides educational entities with a powerful instrument to foster innovation for educational purposes, significantly reduce the burden on internal IT resources and improve risk management. The key benefits that educational organizations have gained through cloud adoption are higher availability of systems (67 percent of respondents), flexibility in resource utilization (68 percent) and better system performance (56 percent).

What’s hindering adoption

Despite the operational benefits listed above, the research indicated that cloud technology still raises more questions than it answers. The top reason organizations cited for being cautious about this technology was security: 67 percent of educational organizations in the U.S. are concerned about the security and privacy of data and systems in the cloud, and 33 percent of them say that lack of skills to manage cloud environments is the main factor that hinders cloud adoption.

The main concerns that keep both government-funded and private educational organizations away from a big cloud move are the fear of unauthorized access and account hijacking (67 percent) and the fear of losing control over data (50 percent). In addition, insider threats associated more with human mistakes rather than with deliberate privilege abuse were mentioned by 78 percent of respondents, who said that their own employees pose more threat to data integrity than anyone else.

Impact on security

When asked about the issues that hinder cloud adoption, 42 percent of respondents in the education sector mentioned the inability to monitor user activity in the cloud, and 33 percent were worried about poor control over users with access privileges at a providers’ site. No wonder that 83 percent of educational institutions said that visibility into user activity in the cloud is crucial for security. In fact, organizations that managed to gain visibility into cloud-based IT environments stated that cloud adoption affected their IT security in a positive way — 34 percent of respondents mentioned that cloud has improved the security of their systems and data.

A matter of trust

In spite of the significant benefits that cloud technology offers to the education sector, the majority of educational institutions simply fear to entrust their data to cloud providers. Since educational entities need strict control over critical changes and user activities in their IT environments to prevent loss of sensitive data, they need a solution that will help them strengthen security, provide compliance and ensure ongoing system availability. Deep visibility into what is happening across critical IT systems will enable the education sector to mitigate the risk of data breaches by validating their security policies and detecting potential threats at early stages, so they can seize the operational benefits offered by the cloud with confidence.

Michael Fimin is CEO and co-founder of Netwrix, provider of a visibility and governance platform that enables control over changes, configurations and access in hybrid cloud IT environments to protect data regardless of its location. Contact Michael through LinkedIn.

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